After an exhausting day with a 3.15am start, and a tiring drive north on the main highway of South Andaman Island, we felt ready to flop into bed as soon as we arrived back on Bali Hai but of course, there were, as always, jobs to be done first.
One of these was to turn on the engine for an hour or so to recharge the batteries. However, our trusty Yanmar engine which had, until then, never missed a beat just wouldn’t start. The skipper thought that the rolly anchorage we experienced at Neill Island, combined with the diesel being at its lowest since we set out from Brisbane, Australia, two years ago, could have caused dirt to be sucked up into the system resulting in a blockage in the fuel line.
After bleeding the system and turning the engine over at length with no success we decided to sleep on the problem.
The next morning reinforcements arrived at 7.30am in the shape of Mike, Yantara’s skipper. Having previously encountered a similar problem with his engine he knew exactly what to do.
Using a pump normally used to drain used oil from the engine, he sucked the tainted diesel out of the fuel line. Eureka! when the engine was turned over it sprang into life!
This is one of the wonderful aspects of the cruising life – fellow cruisers are always so helpful and very often more knowledgeable and experienced than yourself. Every time something goes wrong it is an opportunity to learn something new.
We were very grateful for the assistance as we had visions of having to find a diesel mechanic and getting held up at Port Blair for a few days.
Instead, we were able to leave for Chidiyatapu that day – although not as early as we would have wished, as when we radioed Port Blair coast guard they told us they hadn’t received our itinerary. We knew that our agent, Rathnam, had delivered it to the Harbour Master but obviously it hadn’t been sent from the Harbour Master to the Coastguard.
Rathnam was on to it straight away but it still very frustrating as we had to hang around for almost an hour before it was sorted out and we were eventually given permission to leave Port Blair Harbour.
We turned south as we had already explored islands to the north of Port Blair and headed for our first stop – Chidiyatapu on the south end of South Andaman Island.
During the passage we clocked up 7,777 nautical miles since we had put Bali Hai back in the water in Brisbane just two years previously.
Our friends on Smart Choice had already been in the Chidiyatapu anchorage for a couple of days and they had been in touch with Ravi, one of the Mr Fixits in the Andamans. He had organised a meal at the Dive School to which we were all invited.
The tide that night was very low so we arranged to follow the Smarties in so that they could guide us in.
It was just on sunset as we motored in after a sundowner on Smart Choice and I was nervously looking for crocodiles as the Skipper of Australian boat Shakti had seen a three metre specimen swim by the boat at Chidiyatapu just about a week earlier. Dusk, shallow water, mangroves – crocodile heaven! Thankfully, we saw no sign of him and landed our dinghies with no trouble at all.
The meal – cooked by the dive school chef was amazing – tandoori lobster, barbecued fish, grilled chicken, chicken livers, rice, and several dhals.
The next day we were up early to head the 50 or so nautical miles to Little Andaman Island. We motored almost the entire way but the good news was that we had a decent current helping us which meant we made excellent time.
Coming in it wasn’t easy to spot the best place to anchor. We had heard that the harbourmaster was very anxious that yachts didn’t anchor anywhere near where the ferry came in as it needed plenty of room to turn. So we anchored well off the harbour wall (built after the 2004 Tsunami) more or less where the cruising guide suggested.
The harbour master asked us to bring our cruising permits for the Andamans in and wanted to see all our other documents too.
When the skippers went ashore the whole process went on much longer than expected, mainly we think, because all the officials were delighted to have some visiting yachts to deal with. They met up with George, the go-to person at Little Andaman Island and for some reason, the skippers ended up at the police station – we think to get permission to drink BYO alcohol at George’s restaurant. We learned that there was no alcohol for sale on the island at that time as it is rationed due to the island’s high levels of alcoholism.
Each person is only allowed a certain amount and when the allowance for the month is exhausted there is no more alcohol to be had.
When we were in Chiryatapu the Smart Choices (the Smarties) had purchased ten beautiful crayfish from the local dive school so that evening we had the most delicious meal imaginable – the crays barbecued in butter, delicious salads and mango salsa. What a wonderful life it is that we cruisers lead!
To read about our trip through the Jarawa tribal lands on the main (only) Andaman highway click on the link below
Or go to the previous blog post at